Last Updated: September 22nd
There was a time when tales of aliens, space travel, and robots were believed to be the strict province of four-eyed basement dwellers, but the truth is that everybody can find something to enjoy in the weird world of science fiction. The best sci-fi works in both universal truths and hyperspecific detail, using fantastical yet fully-realized worlds to tell stories about our own.
Netflix‘s selection of good sci fi movies isn’t exhaustive, but there’s still plenty worth exploring nestled among the sequels and paycheck-generators. Keep on scrolling for 10 of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix streaming to watch right now, all taking you from the moon, the farthest reaches of space, and to the outer fringes of reality itself.
1. Jurassic Park (1993)
Run Time: 127 min | IMDb: 8.1/10
The theme song. The dinosaurs. And Jeff Goldblum. Just a few reasons why this sci-fi flick kicks-ass decades after it hit theaters. Steven Spielberg’s adventure epic imagines a different kind of amusement park, one where dinosaurs are the main attraction. Of course, before opening to the public, the billionaire investor of said park invites archeologists and scientists to evaluate how safe it is — for the cloned creatures and future human guests. The answer: not very. There’s a reason this film spawned a hugely successful franchise. In terms of world-building, it just doesn’t get any better.
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Run Time: 108 min | IMDb: 8.3/10
Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet star in this sci-fi romance about a couple reliving their romance following a painful break-up. The movie stars Winslet as the free-spirited Clementine, who decides to have her memories of a past relationship with beau Joel (Carrey) erased. Once Joel learns of this, he too decides to erase their time together, and the film is a reverse narrative of their love story, charting their break-up and all the things that led up to it. It’s a quirky romance, one that ends on a hopeful note and has just enough futuristic tech to feel worthy of the genre.
3. Cloud Atlas (2012)
Run Time: 172 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
This time-jumping, world-hopping masterpiece from the Wachowskis never got the recognition it deserved when it premiered nearly a decade ago. Audiences and critics alike found it difficult to understand and it does take a keen eye to keep track of the many plot threads and character arc woven through space and time in this thing. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and a slew of other A-listers star in a story that attempts to draw connections over centuries, showing how one person’s actions can have a ripple effect on the universe. There’s plenty of fantasy elements to keep you interested and, if you can keep up, the film just might provide an even deeper philosophical discovery.
4. The Girl With All The Gifts (2016)
Run Time: 111 min | IMDb: 6.6/10
Despite a cast that includes Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, and Glenn Close, this unusual, post-apocalyptic film got a bit overlooked during its brief theatrical release. It’s best enjoyed without knowing too much of the plot. Suffice it to say that Melanie (Sennia Nanua), the girl of the title, isn’t quite what she seems, and there’s a reason that she, and others her age, are kept in a secure military facility. But the best trick of the film, thanks in large part to Nanua’s winning performance, is the way its innovations go beyond just putting twists on a familiar genre and, instead, making us question where our sympathies ought to lie.
5. District 9 (2009)
Run Time: 112 min | IMDb: 7.9/10
Neill Blomkamp’s inventive sci-fi alternate reality utilizes the found-footage style of filmmaking to thrilling effect in District 9. After an alien spaceship parks itself over parts of South Africa, the world’s governments decide to put the sick occupants found onboard in an internment camp called District 9. Years later, having used up all their resources and suffered through secret experiments, the aliens are outcast by society, seen as lawbreakers and scum by society. When a company is contracted to relocate the aliens to a new camp, one of its members is infected with alien DNA, setting off a string of events that end up touching on heavier themes of xenophobia, segregation, and the state of humanity as a whole.
6. Okja (2017)
Run Time: 120 min | IMDb: 7.4/10
Bong Joon-Ho’s send-up of corporate farming and environmental abuses isn’t subtle. Tilda Swinton goes all-out as the CEO of an evil corporation only to be outdone by Jake Gyllenhaal’s broad turn as an unstable TV host. But its tale of an endearing, genetically modified “super pig” and the girl who loves him is effective and contains both some terrific action set pieces and the most affecting child/strange beast relationship this side of E.T.
7. Snowpiercer (2013)
Run Time: 126 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
Chris Evans stars in this sci-fi thriller from auteur Bong Joon-ho. The film, set years into the future following a devastating ice age caused by mankind, follows Evans’ Curtis who lives in poverty on a train that continuously circles the Earth and contains all that remains of human life. Curtis is part of the “scum” the people relegated to the back of the train while the “elite” enjoy the privilege of wealth and status that comes with living in the front. Curtis sparks a rebellion that ends in bloodshed and a devastating reveal when he makes it to the train’s engine room and discovers just how the elite have been fueling their operation. It’s a dark, grimy action piece that should give fans a new appreciation for Evans’ talent.
8. April And The Extraordinary World (2015)
Run Time: 105 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
In an alternate version of 1941 where France has been led by a line of Napoleons and leading scientists mysteriously disappear, young April, her talking cat Darwin, and the shady Julius go searching for April’s missing parents. It’s an interesting take on a history where technological advancement isn’t a thing, where “steampunk” is reality and TVs and cars don’t exist. April’s journey starts in the dreary, stuck-out-of-time France but leads her to fantastical advancements that still make sense in the world we’re presented with. The heart of the film lies in the love that plucky, stubborn April has for those she cares about, and the film’s driven by charming animation and a genuinely interesting concept. It’s enjoyable action that’s just out-there enough for adults while being accessible for the young and young at heart.
9. Spaceballs (1987)
Run Time: 96 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
Mel Brooks’ hilarious space odyssey has become something of a cult classic over the decades. It’s a parody of George Lucas’ Star Wars trilogy, so it follows the same plot: a rogue pilot and his sidekick must rescue a princess and save the galaxy, but instead of Startroopers, the bad guys are known as Space Balls, and everyone is hopelessly out of their depth playing hero (and villain).
10. Equals (2015)
Run Time: 101 min | IMDb: 6.1/10
Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart star in this sci-fi romance about two people who buck against societal convention to be together. Silas (Hoult) and Nia (Stewart) live in a dystopian future where all emotion has been eradicated by the government, supposedly for the citizens’ own good. Most mental illness has been cured and people procreate through an artificial insemination program. This detached way of life works unless, like Nia and Sila, people begin exhibiting signs of Switched-On Syndrome, a disease that slowly introduces emotions, both good and bad, back into a person’s psyche, causing some to commit suicide and almost all to be detained by the collective in charge. Nia and Silas form a romantic bond and plan to escape their community before the government can find out, but things don’t go as planned. It’s an interesting concept, made even better by the performance from Hoult and Stewart, even if it feels a bit slow at times.
Recent Changes Through September 2020:
Removed: The Matrix, Her, E.T., Ex Machina, Under The Skin, Back To The Future,
Added: Jurassic Park, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Equals, Cloud Atlas, Spaceballs, The Girl With All The Gifts